UK 'could cut transport carbon emissions by 76 per cent' say researchers

Environment researchers funded by the Greenpeace Environmental Trust have spelled out how they believe UK carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from transport could be cut to a quarter of current levels within 40 years.

The study, conducted at the Stockholm Environment Institute, University of York, goes beyond the science and paints a picture of what a low-carbon transport future would look like. What emerges, the researchers say, is a vision of a less stressful, quieter, healthier, more resilient and confident society.

Transport is a major source of greenhouse gases, with emissions rising faster than those from any other sector of the economy. Growing levels of car use, road freight and flying have created difficulties in reducing transport's greenhouse gas emissions.

But the York project has shown that a phased programme of technological, financial and behavioural changes could secure the following potential cuts in CO2 emissions compared to business-as-usual approach:
> 100 per cent in road transport (cars and lorries)
> 100 per cent in rail transport
> 56 per cent in aviation
> 49 per cent in shipping
The resulting overall reduction for transport in the UK by 2050 is 76 per cent.

The project took an evidence-based approach that meant reductions were included only if there was already-available experience showing that they could be achieved.

The research suggests that if the measures were implemented, there would be substantial economic benefits for individuals and businesses as well as a significant fall in road deaths and injuries. There would also be large reductions in noise and air pollution and dramatic changes in urban design and planning to provide substantially improved opportunities for walking, cycling and community cohesion.

Professor John Whitelegg of the Stockholm Environment Institute and co-author of the study said: "This project marks a significant break with traditional thinking that regards transport as too hard to deal with when it comes to greenhouse gas reduction. We have shown that the potential is much greater than anyone previously thought and that reductions in emissions go hand in hand with improvements in air quality, health and economic success."

The project specified the reduction potential from spatial, technological, fiscal and behavioural changes. It identified the maximum degree to which these can be applied in a phased programme of action over the next 40 years.

The policy recommendations include a number of "radical but achievable" measures including:
> Spatial planning to create neighbourhoods and communities where it is possible to reach destinations on foot or by bicycle and public transport
> New approaches to the regionalisation of production and consumption to bring about reductions in road freight
> Increases in the cost of transport to implement the so-called "polluter pays principle"
> Full de-carbonisation of the UK electricity supply system
> Full conversion of all cars to Plug In Electric Vehicles or Hydrogen Fuel Cells using de-carbonised electricity.

However, the authors acknowledge that if electrical power sector decarbonisation is less than 100 per cent, CO2 emissions from road and rail transport will be substantially higher than projected in the 'maximum impact' scenario.

The full report was published on 16 August and can be found on the SEI website:

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